Guru's visit to New Zealand
On the 1989 trip to New Zealand when Guru met our Prime Minister, there were many uncertainties and we spent much of our time in a sea of anxiety. With Guru though, things always seem to work out, and even in the many inadvertent, unscripted moments things still seem to work out. Here is a photograph of Subarata with the famous David Lange cake, our gift to him, the likeness of our Prime Minister etched with great fidelity in the veneer of icing.
Learning that the New Zealand disciples were outside in the main airport – hopeful of a glimpse of Guru inside in the international lounge – Guru astonished everyone by picking up the David Lange Prime Ministerial cake and marching out through a no-exit route, effectively entering New Zealand without going through Customs and Immigration and apparently invisible to the authorities.
It was extraordinary. There in broad daylight Guru calmly walked out the wrong way through the entry-only section, carrying the large box and some prasad. In response to our great surprise Guru commented: “Where there is heart, always there is a way."
Then after our excited troupe had taken prasad, Guru walked back into the in-transit lounge, bypassing all officialdom, un-challenged, still surely invisible and with no documentation or processing. We were speechless for days.
The cake was later forgotten in the Prime Ministerial scramble until Guru said to Subarata, “But where is the cake?" Once found and placed reverently in the back of Guru’s car, it was nearly sat upon by Subarata in our rushed ride to our next engagement.
Guru praised our PM lavishly, especially his achievement in orchestrating New Zealand’s pioneering “nuclear-free" legislation in the face of huge opposition. Guru saw that our country’s stance would inspire the whole world.
Prior to his meeting with David Lange, Guru went shopping for gifts at a local market and bought hair clips for the visiting girl disciples. The hair clips all had popular western names attached—Helen, Margaret, Emily and so forth—and Guru had great fun remembering the original name of each intended recipient.
In a nearby bookstore, Guru enquired of the shop owner the location of a particular title he wanted. The owner did not know where in the shop it was, so Guru placed both hands against a long wall of books, closed his eyes and concentrated for a minute. Then he walked along the aisle and simply pulled out the desired title! Subarata and I were amazed.
Guru also bought me a bright yellow tie with drawings of sheep all over it, and I wore this unconventional appendage at several of our VIP meetings. The tie created a smiling light- heartedness on its various outings, the playful lambs perhaps reminding us that life, after all, is only a game.
An Indian gentleman who helped arrange our meeting with New Zealand’s Prime Minister David Lange requested a private meeting with Guru near the end of this wonderful visit, and Guru kindly agreed. Both Subarata and one of our visiting disciples had noticed that our Indian friend—a doctor by profession—was wearing a thinly disguised wig. It was one of those snippets of absolutely useless information that somehow fascinate and arouse a disproportionate amount of interest and humour and charm. The fact was somehow relayed to Guru, and then this trifle quite forgotten.
Guru and the doctor disappeared into a side room for a serious interview, emerging some twenty minutes later looking quite grave. After the doctor had departed, Guru turned to us and confided, “You are right. He does have a wig!"
It gave us so much joy to imagine Guru, free to roam in all those higher worlds, examining the good doctor’s hair for those tell-tale signs of a toupee.
In 1989 a one-mile loop around the spacious acres of the Auckland Domain was dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile, and our city mayor, parks authorities and various Olympians and notables came to welcome Guru. The brass band from a local girls’ school had also been invited to add a little colour to the occasion – unwisely, as it turned out – and they belted out a series of strangely incongruous Christmas carols, months away from Christmas and all hugely out of tune. At every apparent lull in the proceedings they would start up again, as though responding to some invisible cue – we often had to wave our arms at them to stop! As well, one zealous player always ended her efforts with a loud protesting blast on the trombone as if someone had trodden heavily on her toes. The intensity of Guru’s presence was mixed with a comical element, as though two different worlds had confusingly come together – though Guru himself was hugely relaxed, seeming to enjoy this strange mélange.
Subarata had also invited a clown, another bizarre yet somehow rather endearing oddity, and in all the video footage of this great occasion, there he is in his multi-coloured striped trousers and oversized red shoes, juggling happily or cheek-and-jowl with the mayor or waving at the camera. All of this created an air of informality, a light and spontaneous touch in which Guru himself was complicit. Guru walked and jogged around our newly dedicated Peace-Blossoms mile and organized a spontaneous series of races for the disciples and others present. The mayor demurred, excusing herself from athleticism by pointing to her high-heeled shoes.
I had almost completely lost my voice – the tax from sleepless nights and stress – and my opening remarks on this wonderful occasion, little more than a few inaudible, whispered croakings, rivaled the brass band’s curious contribution. I invited Guru to speak and he took the microphone as though to do so – then he simply meditated for quite a long time.
The power and unexpectedness of Guru’s long silence, his calm disregard for convention, his absolute spiritual authority and composure and the sudden surprise of his meditation swept everything else away and restored the occasion to what it was meant to be, something momentous and deep and lovely – for a great Master had just passed through our little world. Later Guru said, “My silence is my highest offering.”
Over the years Auckland’s Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile has witnessed a number of interesting events. Some of our Peace Runs have started here, innumerable races held, and 50-mile tribute runs undertaken to honour some of Guru’s achievements. Once Subarata and Bhuvah walked over twenty painful miles on tall stilts in some other commemorative outing.
Our Centre car was also stolen from here, metres from where Guru had stood. Subarata contacted our main national newspaper with an ingenious and true account of her alter-ego life as Cleo the clown and what the loss of her car would mean to doting child audiences and her livelihood, and a sympathetic reporter ran a Front Page story. The endearing photo of Subarata in full clown regalia, looking suitably woeful, made our car too hot to keep for its morally bankrupt new owners and, in a remarkable instance of grace, the car was quickly abandoned, turning up a short while later in a parking lot and none the worse for it all.
In summer, the parklands surrounding our Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile are carpeted with acorns, lovely fields of them spreading away under the deep aerial greens of towering oaks. You can pick them up in handfuls and marvel at how perfect they are, how different each is from any other. A little seasonal miracle. Out jogging one morning I composed a little jubilatory acorn ode in my head—back home, searching for a pen before I forgot:
In drifts and banks
of burnished gold
they mass, those tawny
that crunch and crackle
underfoot in glades you stroll,
weaponry in the warrior feuds
of boys. When pigs
can fly they’ll flock
squealing into this parkland paradise
gorge, fossick, glut,
pig-heaven, utopia of nuts
hand painted each by autumn’s
lovely brush, a palette
of browns and bronzes, coppery hues
hardened in the kiln of sun.
All night long they tumble down
rattle and patter, clutter
my eaves, bounce and clatter
like playful garden gnomes
lie winter long
in the nurseries of my gutters
and while I sleep
burst quietly into leaf
take root in loam
next spring march out
reclaim their sylvan dynasty.
Go forth my leafy legions
repopulate the barren vales
those former hills of home.